Behind Kelsea Ballerini's "Stormy Eyes" and Sunny Skin at the CMT Awards

Her makeup artist gives us all the details.

Kelsea Ballerini at the CMT Awards


The 2023 CMT Music Awards on April 2 were ripe with talent, and country classic artists and newbies alike all gathered in their best looks for the evening. Singer Kelsea Ballerini was a busy bee, as she hosted the show, performed her hit, "If You Go Down," and of course, had several outfit changes in the process. During the hustle and bustle, she even debuted a "stormy eyeshadow" makeup look that we think will be everywhere this spring. Ahead, her makeup artist Kelsey Deenihan gives us a detailed breakdown of the look.

Hosting an awards show is no small feat, and Ballerini guided the crowd throughout the night in various outfits. However, her standout look was the one she wore on the red carpet, which featured a grey strapless gown with a boned bodice, a fitted mermaid silhouette that flares into a midi skirt, and a trailing train. She wore it over a white strappy bra and paired the 'fit with see-through pointed-toe heels and silver jewelry.

kelsea ballerini

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“Kelsea’s dove grey gown was the inspiration for her stormy red carpet glam,” Deenihan tells Byrdie. “Kelsea and her stylist, Molly Dickson, wanted something unexpected when searching for her look, and this D&G silhouette checked every box. I immediately knew I wanted to use a combination of CoverGirl Clean Fresh Clean Color Classic Smokey and Midnight Sky eyeshadow palettes for a smoky, stormy look.”

Any makeup look is only as good as its base, so Deenihan first spritzed Ballerini’s skin with the Clean Fresh Skincare Priming Glow Mist ($9) and then locked the moisture in with the Clean Fresh Skincare Weightless Water Cream ($10), noting, “I loved using the [cream] for the perfect amount of hydration and moisture tonight. It helped keep Kelsea’s skin glowing throughout the whole show.”

Deenihan then used the Solawave Radiant Renewal Skincare Wand ($169) over the entire face and décolletage to advance ingredient absorption and finished off by calming any redness with the Clean Fresh Skincare Correcting Serum + Moisturizer + Primer ($19) in 100 Redness Neutralizer. Next, Deenihan began evening out Ballerini’s complexion with the Clean Fresh Skin Milk Foundation ($9) all over her face, while adding in the Clean Fresh Hydrating Concealer ($7) in 350 Light/Medium to brighten her under eyes and T-zone.

Kelsey Ballerini getting her makeup done for the CMT Awards

Courtesy of Kelsey Deenihan

 Deenihan continues, “Smoky eyes are said to be trending this spring, and we’re here for it. This ‘stormy eye’ is definitely a nod to that.” Smoky eyes usually rely on dark blacks and harsh silvers for a dramatic look, but Deenihan used shades of grey and blues and subtle shimmers for a softer effect. The result is a sultry eye that's moody and mysterious, but still neutral enough to go with all of Ballerini's looks for the evening.

Deenihan got Ballerini's stormy look with the Clean Fresh Clean Color Eyeshadow Quads ($14) in Classic Smokey and Midnight Sky. Deenihan notes that these palette are critical for nailing the stormy look: "The shadows apply beautifully with your fingers or brushes and blend with ease."

First, Deenihan grabbed the Classic Smokey palette and diffused the cool-toned dark brown color at the outer and inner corners using a small fluffy brush and then pressed the palette's lightest taupe shade onto Ballerini's lid to create dimension. "To add a hint of blue, I added a slate from the [Midnight Sky Palette] over the cool dark brown at the outer corner." Then, Deenihan added sparkle to the look with the Exhibitionist Liquid Glitter Eyeshadow ($6) in Twinkle Town, saying, "It’s perfect as a topper, won’t cause any fallout and lasts all night.  I just wanted a hint, so I applied a small amount with a fluffy brush to the center of the lid."

Kelsey Ballerini getting her hair done for CMT awards

Courtesy of Kelsey Deenihan

Deenihan then tightlined with the Perfect Blend Eyeliner Pencil ($5) in 110 Black Brown and smudged the liner onto the lower lash line. Next, she smoked out the lower lash line with the dark brown shade from the Classic Smokey palette and finished Ballerini's stormy look off with a few generous coats of Lash Blast Clean Volume Mascara ($9) in 795 Pitch Black.

Deenihan balanced the darker eyes with sunny skin. "For that perfect sun-kissed glow, I swept the TruBlend So Flushed High Pigment Bronzer ($8) in 420 Warmth from her temples across her cheekbones. Then, I added a little pop of the TruBlend So Flushed High Pigment Blush ($8) in 360 Sweet Seduction on top of the cheekbones.”

She finished off the look with a swipe of the CoverGirl Exhibitionist Crème Lipstick ($8) in shade Tempting Coffee and then applied the lipstick in Decadent Peach for Ballerini's vintage-Barbie look during her performance.

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